ourTunes not political


It is uncommon for today’s youth to be involved in politics. Numerous factors are undoubtedly available to explain this phenomenon; television, celebrity obsession and video games are often cited as the explanations for apathy. In most cases, young people are berated for not caring what happens in the political sphere without any thought to the cause.

One difference always strikes me when I return home. I go downstairs to the record player and sit for hours with my father, listening to his favorite music from when he was growing up. Almost every song we listen to seems fueled by emotion, but instead of speaking of breakups and lost loves, the songs confront politics. Not a dry subject, as some might assume; the issues of the day provided material for scores of artists. My dad grew up in the era of Vietnam, the draft, Nixon and civil rights movements. He has a soundtrack including Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix to go along with memories of friends being taken by the FBI and sitting in to persuade schools to let girls wear trousers.

The music of the 60s and 70s strikes me as daring. Reading the cover of Jefferson Airplane’s classic album, “Volunteers,” I am amazed at the things they’re saying about the government. While listening to Gil Scott Heron tell us the Revolution Will Not Be Televised, I grow angry about the injustices carried out against black citizens. How is it that the revolutionaries of today still have to go back to these classic pieces of music to find a voice for their own ‘rebellion’?

Aside from Green Day’s laughably ‘political’ “American Idiot” and the offensively simple System of a Down, most political music today rests in the underground music scene, unheard by anyone not motivated enough to seek it out. Punk rock still heads the list, with angry bands trying to wake up their fans. Aus-Rotten, Rise Against and The Suicide Machines are all bands with a message. Neil Young released an album of political anthems, criticizing mainstream bands for not doing the same. Tom Waits includes the epic “Road to Peace” on his collection of B-sides. There is political music out there. One must simply look beyond the small scope of mainstream media to find it.

The problem lies in this music’s very underground appeal and popularity. In my father’s day, the news was on the radio with a melody to make the issue stick in your head. Now a satellite radio or excellent downloading service is almost required to listen to anything besides the same music my parents listened to when they were in college. We have no political music to call our own, so we borrow from our parents.

Yes, there were just as many pop classics from the 60s and 70s as there are today, but alongside those pieces of bubblegum there were real politics and songs that made you think. Maybe CSNY’s “Wooden Ships” doesn’t strike youth of today, or The Beatles’ “Revolution 1” is only useful as an empty campaign promise. These are songs which topped the charts in the era of Woodstock, and those of my parents’ generation still remember and know the words to.

What will we remember of today? Hurricane Katrina, Abu Gharib and the Iraq War? And we’ll be singing “Yeah, yeah, I want to be a rock star” to our children? We’ll remember Yellowcard and Britney Spears having the greatest hits . in a monumental election year?

It is impossible to separate young people from pop culture these days, so is it any wonder that they don’t care about politics when one looks at the culture they are immersed in?